Category: Form and Narrative

“It’s a love story, baby just say yes” 

I am going to tell you a Love Story. It’s a story about two young people whose pure and selfless love so deeply impressed me that I am compelled to set it down in words, if only to see its beauty light up the page. This is the Sad Beautiful Tragic story of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles.

To begin their story, I must go Back to December, that month when a new student arrived at De Lacey High School and changed everything. Her name was Taylor and she possessed an angelic, unearthly beauty and a musical voice that floated down the halls, making everyone fall in love with her. I felt myself drawn to her along with the entire student body, but I was as invisible to her as I was to everyone else. She had particularly Enchanted Harry, the senior class president, and when they were together I saw Sparks Fly.  I watched as she sang for him in the courtyard; her voice was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard as it danced over the words she wrote for him. They seemed to speak their own language. Although I recognized the words, it was as if they had adopted a new meaning which I could not comprehend. I told myself to Shake It Off, but there was something captivating in the love they shared.  I became so obsessed, so Haunted by Taylor and Harry’s story, I wanted nothing more than to experience an affection as profound. But that kind of love will never belong to me and I know it All Too Well. I am destined to remain a perpetual witness, cast aside because I am ugly and awkward and because I do not understand the workings of teenage affection. Still, all I wanted was to stand before Taylor and say, simply, “You Belong With Me.”

Eventually I learned of Taylor’s tragic story. Her mother had died when she was young, and ever since she drifted through life like a ghost. Her father was involved with drugs and she had learned how to avoid strong attachments to people or places, silently packing her things each time he decided to leave town. Her life was a Blank Space waiting for her to write her own story. She hoped against all hope for the day when her savior would appear on a White Horse, just as he had in her Wildest Dreams.  She found her deliverance with Harry; he made her believe it was possible to be infinitely happy, Forever and Always. But Taylor’s father did not approve of her association with Harry. The boy was from a different world, a more affluent world in which Taylor did not belong because of her Bad Blood. But her father’s threats and alcoholic rage could not keep Taylor away from Harry. Rumors began to circulate about Taylor’s father and the vagrant life they led, and she became an object to be pitied, but avoided as though she carried a deadly illness. The only one to remain by her side through it all was Harry. I found myself enraged by this conflict of human emotion, that one could be capable of such inspiring love while the others demonstrated a terrible cruelty.

Then one day, Taylor didn’t come to school. She didn’t come to school for the entire week. A heavy sadness fell upon Harry, and without her by his side everything seemed unbearable. Eventually we learned that Taylor’s father had gotten in over his head and they left De Lacey before the police could find him. But they caught him and locked him away, leaving Taylor completely alone in her shattered world. Harry learned of the arrest and, because he would do anything to restore Taylor’s happiness, paid her father’s bail. But for this incredible kindness, Mr. Swift loathed Harry even more and forbade Taylor from ever seeing him again. (Like ever.)

But Taylor was Fearless now and she escaped. She ran in only one direction and when she reached Harry’s home, he welcomed her with the most indescribable joy. And the image of their embrace is forever imprinted on my heart as the highest form of human love. May it Long Live.

To my lovely publishers,

To begin the creative process for this piece you asked me to compose, I turned to my usual source for inspiration: Taylor Swift. A quick Google search of “taylor swift and frankenstein” led me to this video, which is itself a parody of Twilight. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that the very core of Mary Shelley’s narrative frame is a story of star-crossed lovers, much like those found in today’s young adult franchises. Like Katniss and Peeta or Edward and Bella, Felix and Safie shouldn’t be together: they come from different worlds, her father doesn’t like him, he has no money to support her. I think this part of Mary Shelley’s novel is too often forgotten, despite it’s structural and metatextual significance as the center of the narrative. I was particularly interested in conveying, as briefly as possible, the emotional development and internal conflicts the monster experiences as he observes Felix and Safie’s story unfold. While I kept the “outsider” point of view, I decided to incorporate the “monster figure” into the world he describes. I felt that if the monster were placed in the context of a modern American high school, he would be that loner kid who doesn’t fit in with “the norm.” Essentially, I attempted to modernize the Felix and Safie story by situating its plot in the context of a typical young adult novel laden with teenage angst, rebellious lovers, etc.

Why Taylor Swift? Because I love Taylor Swift. But really, I think we can all agree that her music best captures the drama and emotional conflicts within relationships. She is the queen of star-crossed lovers. I thought using her as a cultural reference just how amusingly dramatic and romantic the Felix and Safie story really is. A “Taylor Swift song” could definitely be written about their relationship.

P.S. Bonus points if you can figure out what all the bolded words have in common!

The Female Creature

One of the things that Zakharieva’s essay leaves to be desired is a thorough analysis of Branagh’s introduction of a female creature. He very briefly touches on it at the tale end of the essay, but kind of leaves things very open. I would have liked to see more of an in depth cultural analysis of this. Why did Branagh do this, and in the context of cultural criticism, how was this choice affected by the 90’s time period in which the movie was made?¿?¿?


Passage pp. 116-117 from “But ‘Paradise Lost’ …..envy rose within me”

The proletariat, as a collective entity, is condensed into a singular being in the form of Frankenstein’s creature. Montag describes the nameless creature as “a being for whom there is no place in the ordered world of nature” (395). Because he has neither place nor agency within human society or the natural world, the creature demands that Victor produce a mate for him so that he may create his own place. Similarly, the “proletariat” was an invention of the system in which it operated and therefore had no place within the natural order. Because the proletariat existed as a collection of individuals, it lacked the agency to determine its identity. Thus, the capitalist middle-class oppresses the working class not only by the physical burden imposed upon them but also by the dehumanizing removal of their ability to form such individual identities. Being forced into a collective mass, each member is no longer recognizable as an individual and consequently becomes isolated from human society. The creature as a representation of this namelessness or “unrepresentability” of the proletariat, becomes “the object of pity and fear” (387), according to Montag. Readers pity the monster (and the oppressed working class) for his isolation, yet fear the monster as something outside of nature and human control.

This passage from the creature’s story communicates the his isolation from human society by comparing the creature to the Adam of “Paradise Lost,” who like the monster “was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence.” The image of “an omnipotent God warring with his creatures” provides readers with a religious analogy to the tension between creator and creation, or perhaps, oppressor and the oppressed. The monster evokes a hesitant sympathy from readers by immediately opposing his circumstances to those of Adam, despite his initial identification with Adam’s isolation. While Adam was “happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator,” the monster, like the oppressed proletariat, “was wretched, helpless, and alone.” The monster’s tone of amazement toward his initial connection with poem quickly turns to one of resentment toward his creator when he bitterly compares himself to Satan, “as the fitter emblem of my condition.” In this one paragraph, readers perceive the monster’s transformation into the monstrous form Montag attributes to the oppressed working class. He claims that that in organizing an industrial society, the capitalist elites “conjured up a monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled” (386). Just as Frankenstein’s monster “is monstrous by virtue of its being artificial rather than natural” (387), the collective working class is unsettling because it is an artificial creation of a socioeconomic system.

I didn’t expect to see extreme class struggle in this novel, but looking at it closely, it now seems hard to miss. According to Warren Montag in his essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creation,” the unrepresentability of the proletariat is what the creature really  represents, not the actual proletariat itself. I agree that the only reason the monster “would no longer be a monster” (395) if the proletariat was present in the novel outside of the creature, but I don’t agree that he does not represent the presence of the proletariat in a significant way. Both the bourgeois and the proletariate are boiled down to one main entity: Victor as the bourgeois, and the creature as the proletariat. While Victor’s and Clerval’s families can all be seen as representing the bourgeois as well, they do so in such a passive manner as to be fairly negligible in the comparison. Victor, on the other hand, aggressively embodies all that is bourgeoisie.

When the creature entreats Victor to create for him a mate, Victor feels first compassion, and “sometimes felt a wish to console him,” but soon his “feelings were altered to those of hatred” (130). These are the same feelings as those of Montag’s “new elites” who found it necessary to utilize the proletariat to overthrow old regimes. At first perhaps sympathetic, they quickly grew to be resentful of the lower class who would block the new elites’ rise to power. The creature, on the other hand, is asking for similar things to the proletariat: “I shall…become linked to the chain of existence and events, from which I am now excluded” (130). Both characters mirror their respective class well, and in this passage at the very least, the creature represents the entire proletariat infused into one being, arguing for equality, acting as almost a spokesperson.

When Montag concludes the creature is, “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability,” he means that besides the creature simply symbolizing the proletariat, the creature at the same time reveals the inability to represent the working class as a singular, modern creation. The working class is a faceless, voiceless mass, while the creature most definitely has a face and a voice. I agree with Montag’s conclusion.

It’s easy to see how the creature and the working class equate. The creature’s telling of his story and his negotiations with Victor for a female could be interpreted as analogous to workers discussing their conditions and their desire for improved conditions. What’s harder to see is how that doesn’t exactly equate. The frame narrative offers more insight. The creature doesn’t directly tell his own tale. He relates it to Victor, who in turn relates it to Walton, who finally tells it to the reader. The frame narrative distorts the creature’s voice through the fact that his story is told through essentially his oppressors. As such, some of the creature’s statements and actions don’t quite seem to add up. For example, the creature says, “Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me” (126). From prior parts of his tale, we know the creature is eloquent. It doesn’t make sense that, if he’s trying to convince William that he’s not all that bad, the creature would say that. I would think he would continue to say things along the lines of his first statements to William: “I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me” (126). That would have been more convincing and more in-line with the arguments the creature makes to Victor.

However, we also don’t know for sure if that statement really has been distorted by the frame narrative. The creature could have said that because he was stressed, because he hadn’t had any positive experience with society, or because he was tired of the negative reactions. There are many possible explanations. This uncertainty also supports the idea that the creature cannot completely represent the working class. We can say that one explanation of the creature’s actions is more likely than another, however that explanation cannot apply to an entire group because the creature is an individual. A single individual cannot be an accurate depiction of an larger group.

What’s the point?

Maybe I missed something, but, what are Marxist critics’ motives? From the relative autonomy to false consciousness it seems like the theory is that we’re part of a system that sometimes we can see but usually we can’t, and when we make our choices it’s usually because of societal influences and not true individuality, and individuality doesn’t exist because the closest you can get to that is relative autonomy, which seems equivalent to, if the system is a sea, just getting your eyes above water. Are the critics trying to draw attention to the “system?” The way Parker portrays it, it seems like the system is inescapable. Perhaps it’s because he’s a negative guy, but, you can get your head above water for a moment and see that there are people connected to the things you’re buying and maybe you don’t need that new watch but, in the end the system keeps going. Why spend so much time talking about something that seems inescapable? Are they just trying to track the evolution of the system? Are they trying to change this system? Because I think there will always be a system of some sort. The world is made of systems; society is a system; economics is a system; government is a system. What are we trying to do with Marxist criticism?

This may seem like a fairly broad question, and maybe I’m majorly missing the point of the chapter. I followed along with the ideas of Marxism pretty well, and I get what modern Marxist criticism is in general, but how does Parker intend this type of criticism to actually apply to literature, rather than just social situations?

A point in the reading that I was unsure about was how Parker referred to relative autonomy, agency and intervention as one part of the spectrum and ideology, interpellation and false consciousness as the other. What does this spectrum actually over? What is its purpose?

It’s All Relative

I was following along fairly well with Marxist theory (or as decent as any first-year college student) until I encountered the concept of relative autonomy. Parker especially stressed how relative autonomy is not synonymous with individuality. My question is this: According to Marxist theory, is it impossible for any individual to achieve complete individualism, that relative autonomy is really the end-all be-all, the only attainable form of individualism, and even then it is only relative? So why? Why must we choose between individuality and relative autonomy?

An Attempt at Sympathy

p. 105: “My thoughts…blows and execration.”  In these paragraphs, the creature is remarking how he wishes to understand the “lovely creatures” in the cottage, to know why they are so sad and miserable, and restore happiness to them. Through his narrative, it is clear the creature is attempting to grasp at feelings that Burke has recognized as sympathy, and while it is possible that it was impossible for the creature to feel true sympathy, the passage presents him as at least striving towards this goal of feelings.

Through the passage, the creature uses a lot of terms to describe Felix, Agatha, and the father, all of which serving to elevate the beings.  In fact, the creature almost seems to extol them: “I looked upon them as superior beings, who would be the arbiters of my future destiny” (105).  The irony is fairly evident in this passage: these people are flawed and upset, yet the creature sees this as signs of their character strength and a source for his admiration. Because he admires them so, he wishes and hopes that it is in his power to “restore happiness to these deserving people,” which is rather clearly running parallel to Burke’s ideas of sympathy.  We discussed in class for a lengthy period how one of the primary reasons why people take such interest in people who are suffering or are distraught is in order to relieve it, and how this deliverance of Burke’s idea of Delight provides the giver themselves pleasure.  In this way, the creature is strongly exhibiting sympathy, or at least a close replica of the feeling.

Speaking from a broader perspective, the creature is in a correct position to be feeling sympathy for these people. He has been observing them, and witnesses their emotions regularly.  So when you account for the fact that he is destined to not be involved with them, and does not attempt to be for a good period of time, you cover the idea that the person should be close to the action but not in it themselves.  But perhaps he is not truly sympathetic, and he is merely curious to uncover the dynamic for these people.  It seems that the creature himself is selfish, for he wishes to learn how they are in order to be accepted and loved by these people.  This is a point for a different discussion, however; the creature has been adequately portrayed to, at minimum, desire the experience of this sympathy.